In the United States, the number of new diabetes cases keeps falling; however, there has been a surge in obesity cases, and health officials are not sure why.
According to a new federal data released Tuesday, the number of new diabetes cases fell from about 1.7 million in 2009 to 1.3 million in 2017.
Lead author of the new report Dr. Stephen Benoit of the CDC said, “The bottom line is we don’t know for sure what’s driving these trends.” One possibility is the changes in testing and getting people to improve their health before becoming diabetic.
BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care published the report. The statistics run through 2017. Dr. Benoit said, “Last year’s numbers are not yet available.”
Diabetes is a chronic disease characterized by hyperglycemia (high blood glucose). The most common form has been tied to obesity, and the number of diabetics fell as the obesity rates increased in the United States.
From 2000 to 2010, certain factors might have pushed up the annual diabetes cases, and researchers may partly explain why the figures went down since.
In the late 1990s, the diagnostic threshold was lowered, which caused more people to be counted as diabetics, and the impact of that may have played a role.
A diabetes expert at the University of North Carolina Dr. John Buse said, “We might have mined out a lot of the previously unrecognized cases and so new diagnoses in the last several years are more likely to be actual new illnesses.”
In the meantime, physicians have been using a newer blood test to diagnose diabetes, which is much easier than prior tests that required patients to fast for 12 hours and undergo repeated blood draws two hours after meals.
For routine screening in 2010, the American Diabetes Association recommended the new diabetes test called the hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) blood test. As it is easier to do, the test would be expected to lead to more number of diagnoses. However, some experts opine that this may miss a large number of population of early cases in which people have no symptoms. Dr. Benoit said, “You may be missing people that would have been diagnosed.”
Another possibility is that more doctors are diagnosing “prediabetes” that is characterized by high blood sugar level but not that high to diagnose full-blown diabetes. Doctors often advise such patients to change their diet and get into exercise programs.
UCLA expert Dr. Tannaz Moin said, “Prediabetes is becoming a more accepted diagnosis and may be causing an increasing number of patients to improve their health before becoming diabetic.”
The new report is actually based on a large national survey that is conducted by the federal government every year.
The report also found that the rate of new diabetes cases fell from 9.2 per 1,000 U.S. adults in 2009, to 6 per 1,000 in 2017, which is a 35 percent drop. According to the CDC, these figures mark the longest decline since the government started tracking the cases approximately 40 years ago. The investigators said the decrease was mainly among white adults.